Let me describe two characters to you. Let me tell you their stories.
Story A is about a woman who suffers from anxiety and depression. She is awkward in social settings and always says the wrong thing. Because of this, she does not have many friends. People in general do not like her. Since graduating college with a useless degree, she has wandered aimlessly from lousy job to lousy job. She is perpetually broke. She has done little with her life and feels, on the whole, worthless.
Story B is about a woman with many close friends but she also loves spending time by herself. She has several interesting hobbies, is an accomplished artist, and has worked jobs in various fields around the exciting city in which she lives. She is open to new experiences, has traveled the world, is in a healthy relationship, and is generally well-liked by everyone she meets. She sees life as an adventure and is enjoying herself immensely.
Both Story A and Story B are about me. They are the narratives I have constructed about myself. But even though every single sentence in Story B is true, I still tell myself Story A more often. I downplay my good qualities and accomplishments and focus on my failings and faults. Story A is a Bestseller in my mind.
Storytelling is the method human beings have used since the beginning of time to make sense of our world, explain situations to one another, and empathize with our fellow man. We construct our identities by weaving together various threads of stories that we have picked up along the way.
"I am the firstborn kid in my family. My parents are middle-class, white Americans. I've lived on the East Coast all my life."
These are simple facts that are heavy with implied story. I tell you these fragments about myself and you can fill in the blanks based on what you know about oldest children, middle-class, white Americans, and the East Coast.
"I am shy. I am an introvert. I do not do well in social settings with lots of people."
These are things I've been told by others and which I assumed, based on evidence, are true. So I made them part of my story and carried on accordingly. There's nothing wrong with being shy and I definitely identify as an introvert. But I can allow myself to trip over these descriptions when interacting with new people or attending a party. If I spend the whole evening thinking, "I'm shy. I'm an introvert. I do not do well in social settings with lots of people.", I inevitably end up leaving the party feeling like a failure and certain that everyone is glad I didn't stick around long.
When I was little, a girl told me I looked like a monkey. I became convinced I was ugly. Looking like a monkey became part of my character description. It became part of my story. Until recently, I lived as someone who thought of themselves as unattractive and it took a lot of effort to begin dismantling that narrative.
So the stories we tell ourselves are not necessarily true. Or maybe they were true once but no longer apply. Or maybe they were set up by people who were not us and are not for our benefit. Or maybe they were constructed by a society that wants you to think you are not good enough, no matter what you do. We need to be aware of the stories we are telling ourselves: about our own lives, those around us, our jobs, our belief systems, our world. It is a good thing to gently reassess every once in a while to confirm the stories you're using to make sense of life are also true.
Keep a neat and tidy interior bookshelf full of narratives that lift you up and affirm your worth!